Choosing death at 15

At a suburban Virginia high school six students have committed suicide in the last three years, reports the Washington Post.

“There is too much stress in my life from school and the environment it creates, expectations for sports, expectations from my friends and expectations from my family,” wrote Jack Chen, 15. He’d earned a 4.3 grade point average, captained the junior varsity football team and competed in crew and track. He stepped in front of a train.

The six boys who killed themselves were good students and athletes with supportive parents, according to the Post. They did not appear to be “troubled.”

About Joanne


  1. Supersub says:

    The parents were ‘supportive’ of what? Their sons or their plans for their sons?
    How many of these boys have lived their lives without experiencing any freedom, with their lives scheduled as far back as they could remember?

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      I’m normally in your corner Supersub, but really… what do you know about these parents’ relationships with their dead children?

      That goes for some (though not all) of the rest of you down below, too.

      Please try to remember, these are the parents of dead children about whom you are publicly opining.

      • SuperSub says:

        You’re right, I don’t know exactly what went on, but this cluster of suicides is unusual. The one common denominator that even members of the community mention is success-associated stress, which has its roots in the parent-child relationship.
        It’s hard to not celebrate a child’s success and encourage them to focus on those areas in which they do succeed, but parents must push their children to succeed and fail to teach them to be resilient and to show them that their self worth and parents’ love are not dependent on continued success.

      • SuperSub says:

        And perhaps I am being too harsh, but I do believe that absent a neurological disorder (inherent or induced, like drugs), child suicide has its roots in the relationship with the parents.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Coached AYSO back in the day, my kids were jocks. You can tell which kids are their parents’ proxies, only better.

  3. cranberry says:

    Many selective private schools do not rank their students. If too many high achieving students are gathered in a school, they can get really wrapped up in unhealthy competition.

    Please note that I have nothing against _healthy_ competition. There is a peculiar sort of despair which some high achieving students seem to feel, if the school culture is too geared to producing winners and losers.

    Suburban Virginia draws many high-achieving, academic families. The level of academic stress may be well above average.

    I agree with commenters on the Washington Post’s thread, pushing students to take as many AP exams as possible, with an eye to rankinging highly on the high school rankings, is not healthy. I am very sorry for the families’ losses. When students write about pressure to perform in suicide notes, the larger community should listen to them.

    • The competition is for admission to the top VA state colleges; UVA, William and Mary, Virginia Tech and James Madison. All of those schools could fill their entire freshman classes with highly-qualified Virginians from the DC suburbs (which includes the TJefferson math/tech magnet), but they need to admit kids from the rest of the state, in addition to out-of-staters (getting admitted from the MD suburbs of DC is not much less competitive than getting into Ivies). Those colleges are top-notch and much cheaper than privates but getting in is brutal.